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In the film key members of the 332nd abandon their mission to provide air cover and criminally wander off to bomb a German airfield. Progressive military leaders don’t like to stifle self-initiative but David Oyelowo’s role as Joe Little, rogue fighter pilot, was beyond anything reasonable or credible. Those kinds of stunts are far more suited to Saturday morning television at which McGruder is quite successful.



Red Tails in the Sunset

By Jean Damu



23 January 2012

Red Tails, the new George Lucas film depicting the exploits of the Tuskegee Airmen is to the history of black fighter pilots during WWII what a sunset is to a day—it’s pretty to watch but no illumination is forthcoming. However, (and with all due respect), for those of us who wrote their high school book reports after reading the Classic Comic version or watched the Disney Channel version and perhaps even more worrisome, for those of us who may be Tyler Perry fans, then Red Tails, is surely a must see.

For those however who took the time to read a book or take seriously African American’s participation and contributions to everyday life probably will want to take a pass. Red Tails is decidedly not another Glory, the 1989 Morgan Freeman film that was relatively accurate in its telling the story of the Massachusetts 54th Regiment, the first all black infantry unit of the Civil War.

Red Tails, so named because the Tuskegee airmen painted the tails of their planes red, is a cartoonish caricature of great fighting men who contributed much to the world’s titanic struggle against fascism that was WWII. But who, according to Lucas and film writers John Ridley (Under Cover Brother and Fox News contributor) and Aaron McGruder (Boondocks), had no personal relationships with family or black women (not one black woman appears in the film) and who were hopelessly criminal in their refusal to follow orders and complete a mission as assigned.

To be fair all the exploits attributed to the black pilots in Red Tails are absolutely true. Black pilots were originally assigned to strafing duty (the most dangerous of all air assignments) with outdated planes. They did blow up an ammunition train. They did destroy a German airfield and one airman was among the first allied pilots to shoot down an ME (Messerschmitt) 262 fighter jet.

But for purposes of calming and soothing the qualms of Lucas’s financial backers and film industry banks who feared a film with a nearly all black cast would bomb (figuratively speaking of course) at the box office, all these exploits are depicted as being carried out by one lone rogue pilot, a pilot so undisciplined and uncontrollable that in real life he would have been subjected to court martial and likely expelled from the service.

Actually in real life the 332nd all black fighter group was assigned to clear the sea-lanes and provide air cover for the Allies invasion of Sicily. In the film key members of the 332nd abandon their mission to provide air cover and criminally wander off to bomb a German airfield. Progressive military leaders don’t like to stifle self-initiative but David Oyelowo’s role as Joe Little, rogue fighter pilot, was beyond anything reasonable or credible. Those kinds of stunts are far more suited to Saturday morning television at which McGruder is quite successful.

Far in excess of the cartoon caricatures that are the Tuskegee Airmen in Red Tails are the embarrassing, emasculated 332nd squadron leading characters assigned to Terrence Howard and Cuba Gooding, Jr

Gooding is particularly annoying as an eternally pacific, pipe-smoking mentor to his young protégé pilots. But what he comes across as is nothing more than a pretentious McArthur wannabe, never personally putting himself in harms way and never taking the damn pipe out of his mouth. Meanwhile Howard’s character, Col. A. J. Bullard, (a nice tip of the pilot's cap to Eugene Bullard, a black pilot who flew for the Lafayette Esquadrille during WWI) is  a thinly disguised representation of the Tuskegee Airmen's primary leader, Lt. Col. (later General) Benjamin O. Davis. In Red Tails both Howard and Gooding are little more than administrative pencil pushers far removed from any form of combat and would more appropriately have been costumed in aprons and granny hats rather than flight jackets.

In reality Davis and other senior flight squadron officers all had their own planes and fully participated in combat missions. This was true not just in the black units but all the white units as well. During WWII the Army Air Corps was an OJT air force. For everyone it was an On the Job Training because military air science was a new field and few knew very much about it.

Importantly Davis’s plane was named “By Request,” because after the Red Tails became known for providing particularly close protection for bombing raids and bomber groups losses diminished, they were requested specifically by the white bomber groups for protection.

As a matter of course the actors can’t be blamed for the miserable script that was handed them. We have to assume they did the best they could.

Curiously the Red Tails episode that raised the biggest question centered on the pilot shot down, captured by the Germans and taken to prison camp. What followed on screen was apparently cut and pasted from the 2002 Bruce Willis vehicle, Hart’s War, that featured Terrence Howard as the downed Tuskegee man.

A far more revealing episode could have been provided about the two Red Tail pilots who actually were shot down over Yugoslavia, rescued by an armed patrol of the Yugoslav Communist Party and repatriated to the Allies on the Italian border. But those kinds of political points are not attractive to film writers and producers sucking up to the banks. But Ridley and Lucas somewhat redeem themselves.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal Ridley relates that in the run-up to actually writing the Red Tails story Lucas provided him with a van full of newspaper and magazine articles, and military combat and personnel records that took months to research and review. Unfortunately very little of Ridley’s research found its way into McGruder’s clumsy script. However, where Ridley’s research paid off remarkably well was in the making of the  Red Tails companion piece, Double Victory, the documentary.

Here the real and nearly complete story of the Tuskegee airmen’s struggle against fascism overseas and racism at home is honestly and inspiringly told. It ranks among the very best, if not the best documentary ever made telling the role of black military men in WWII.

Black women’s role as spiritual and material sustainers of the black pilots as wives and girlfriends is fully revealed. We learn that when the first class of Tuskegee airmen graduated Lena Horne attended the dance that followed and danced with every graduating cadet. We get misty eyed when one former Red Tail, now in his mid eighties tells us that after the first graduation dance, he walked his girlfriend home and asked, “Will you fly with me for the rest of our lives?” Yes, she said.

Double Victory, the documentary is absolutely everything Red Tails is not. It’s the only redeeming aspect of the main feature. This is the film everyone absolutely should see.

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Double Victory Trailer  / About Red Tails

George Lucas: Hollywood Didn't Want To FundRed Tails Because Of Its Black Cast—10 January 2012—In an appearance on The Daily Show last night, George Lucas said that he had trouble getting funding for his new movie, Red Tails, because of its black cast. "This has been held up for release since 1942 since it was shot, I've been trying to get released ever since," Lucas told Jon Stewart. "It's because it's an all-black movie. There's no major white roles in it at all...I showed it to all of them and they said no. We don't know how to market a movie like this." Red Tails, which stars Cuba Gooding, Jr, and Terrence Howard, is based on the Tuskegee Airmen, the group of pioneering black pilots who fought in the United States' segregated armed forces during World War II. The movie is directed by Anthony Hemingway, the rare black director getting a chance to direct a big-budget feature.—HuffingtonPost

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3 Women Red Tails Left Out—Henry Louis Gates Jr.—25 January 2012—Although African Americans had valiantly served in the Civil War, on the frontier in the Indian Wars, in the Spanish American War and in World War I, white politicians and military officers still publicly professed to doubt black ability and patriotism, as part of the ideology and propaganda that undergirded Jim Crow in all of its pernicious forms. The crucial change came in 1938, primarily because of the efforts of an African-American woman, Mary McLeod Bethune, who saw, before most other black leaders, a way to break the hold of racism on black participation in the military, by striking at the most resistant obstacle of all: the integration of the pilot program. . . .

Bethune's struggle to get African Americans into pilot-training programs began in 1938 with the New Deal's Civilian Pilot Training Program. The program was modestly funded by the National Youth Administration—an important point, because Bethune headed the "Negro Section" of the NYA. She was also the only female member of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's "black cabinet" and a close friend of first lady Eleanor Roosevelt.

Bethune, a famed educator and head of the National Council of Negro Women, proved a relentless advocate for black equality and lobbied President Roosevelt to resist the demands of the Southern wing of the Democratic Party, which was hell-bent on maintaining segregation, especially in the military. Since the program's goal was to train 20,000 college students a year as civilian pilots, the key to integrating the U.S. Army's Air Corps during the coming war, Bethune realized, was getting the government to open training programs on the campuses of historically black colleges and universities.

With extraordinary foresight, she used her considerable authority to get Tuskegee Institute, Hampton Institute, Virginia State, North Carolina A&T, Delaware State, West Virginia State and Howard University included among the colleges and universities chosen as sites for pilot training. Without this crucial intervention, there would have been no Tuskegee Airmen.

Beginning in 1939, Bethune advised the president that among all the disabilities black Americans suffered:

One of the sorest points among Negroes which I have encountered is the flagrant discrimination against Negroes in all the armed forces of the United States. Forthright action on your part to lessen discrimination and segregation and particularly in affording opportunities for the training of Negro pilots for the air corps would gain tremendous good will, perhaps even out of proportion to the significance of such action.

West Virginia State College became the first black school to establish an aviation program, and because of Bethune's efforts, it received its first military airplane in 1939.  It set a precedent that soon benefited the Tuskegee Institute, which received its authorization in October of that year.

The Tuskegee Airmen also owed a debt to Willa Beatrice Brown, one of two women in the all-black Challenger Air Pilots Association, founded in 1935. Brown was one of about 100 licensed black pilots in the entire country. She also became the first African-American woman to receive a commission as a lieutenant in the U.S. Civil Air Patrol.

An expert in business administration and public relations and a dedicated aviator, Brown played a critical role in promoting the image of black aviators to help fight racial prejudice and expand opportunities for all blacks. She became chair of the association's education committee and appeared in the offices of the Chicago Defender, the famed black paper of the era, to convince the paper to cover the association's air shows.

Enoch Waters [author of American Diary], one of the paper's editors, visited an air show and became so impressed with the talent he saw that the Defender became a sponsor of the association. The paper, because of Brown's appeal, also began covering all aspects of black aviation, and soon other black papers followed suit, especially the influential Pittsburgh Courier.

Because several American black aviators had gone to fight the Italian fascists in Ethiopia in 1935, national interest in black pilots had increased. Brown exploited the growing fame of black pilots and helped organize Chicago's National Airmen's Association of America in 1937, which chartered branches across the country (except in the Deep South). Without Brown's work, African-American interest in aviation could have languished.

 Additionally, she not only successfully lobbied for federal funds to support the private Coffey School of Aviation in Chicago but also wrote directly to Eleanor Roosevelt in December 1941.Brown's role in the integration of America's aviation forces, like that of Bethune, was a considerable one as well. In 1941 Eleanor Roosevelt, at Bethune's urging, convinced the Rosenwald Fund (which had a long history of supporting various kinds of projects aimed at ameliorating American race relations, and on whose board she served) to help expand the pilot-training program at Tuskegee. And then in March of that year, Roosevelt not only visited the Tuskegee Institute's Moton Airfield but, incredibly, also asked the chief flight instructor, Charles A. "Chief" Anderson, to take her on a flight, against the adamant objections of the Secret Service.

This is quite likely the first time a black man flew a plane with a white woman as his passenger. Roosevelt spent over an hour in the skies above Tuskegee. She returned to Washington and lobbied her husband to integrate America's aviation forces. According to the FDR Presidential Library and Museum, she declared that all the statements she had heard that blacks couldn't fly planes were bunkum.

The rest is history: The 99th Pursuit Squadron (later called the 99th Fighter Squadron) was formed in July 1941. The first class of black aviator cadets began to train on Nov. 8, 1941, with the first pilots graduating on March 7, 1942. In all, 992 African-American pilots trained at Tuskegee Army Air Field, and 450 of its black pilots flew in combat during the war, serving in the four black fighter squadrons and four bomber groups.  

By June 1944, black pilots had flown 500 missions in the 99th Fighter Squadron, first in North Africa and later in Sicily and the rest of Italy. The 332nd Fighter Group flew 179 heavy bomber-escort missions, as Red Tails depicts so effectively, shielding heavy bombers such as the B-24 Liberator. They shot down 111 Axis aircraft.

In their longest escort mission, the 332nd Fighter Group managed to shoot down not one, but three of the new ME-262 jet fighters that the Germans threw against the propeller-driven fighter planes—again, in a battle that Lucas so vividly re-creates. Sixty-six of the Tuskegee Airmen died during the war, and others earned many Purple Hearts, Silver Stars and Distinguished Flying Crosses. President Harry S. Truman even gave the Tuskegee Airmen a Distinguished Unit Citation for "outstanding performance and extraordinary heroism." 

When black activists urged Truman to desegregate the military in 1948, they could point to the heroism of the Red Tails pilots to prove that black servicemen had earned the equal treatment that they deserved as loyal Americans. But without the bold imagination of Mary McLeod Bethune, the persistent advocacy of Willa Beatrice Brown and the sheer stubbornness of her friend Eleanor Roosevelt, it is doubtful that Tuskegee Airmen would have come into being.—TheRoot

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The Tuskegee Airmen

John Lithgow (Actor), Cuba Jr. Gooding

This true story of the black flyers who broke the color barrier in the U.S. Air Force during World War II is a well-intentioned film highlighted by an excellent cast. Proud, solemn, Iowa-born Laurence Fishburne and city-kid hipster Cuba Gooding Jr. are among the hopefuls who meet en route to Tuskegee Air Force Base, where they are among the recruits for an "experimental" program to "prove" the abilities of the black man in the U.S. armed services. Fighting prejudice from racist officers and government officials and held to a consistently higher level of performance than their white counterparts, these men prove themselves in training and in combat, many of them dying for their country in the process. Andre Braugher costars as a West Point graduate who takes charge of the unit in Africa and in Italy (where it's christened the 332nd). The film is rousing, if slow starting and episodic, but it's periodically grounded by a host of war movie clichés, notably the calculated demise of practically every trainee introduced in the opening scenes (ironic given the 332nd's real-life combat record--high casualties for the enemy, low casualties among themselves, and no losses among the bombers they escorted). Ultimately the Emmy-nominated performances by moral backbone Fishburne and the dedicated Braugher and the energy and cocky confidence of Gooding give their battles both on and off the battlefield the sweet taste of victory.—Sean Axmaker

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Oscar nominations 2012: full list

Juano Hernández (July 19, 1896 – July 17, 1970) was a Puerto Rican stage and film actor of African descent who was a pioneer in the African-American film industry. He made his debut in an Oscar Micheaux film, The Girl from Chicago which was directed at black audiences. Hernández also performed in a serious of dramatic roles in mainstream Hollywood movies. His participation in the film "Intruder in the Dust" earned him a Golden Globe Award nomination for "New Star of the Year." . . . In 1949, he acted in his first mainstream film, based on William Faulkner's novel, Intruder in the Dust, in which he played the role of "Lucas Beauchamp", a poor Southern sharecropper unjustly accused of murder. The film earned him a Golden Globe nomination for "New Star of the Year." The film was listed as one of the ten best of the year by the New York Times. Faulkner said of the film: "I'm not much of a moviegoer, but I did see that one. I thought it was a fine job. That Juano Hernandez is a fine actor—and man, too." Film historian Donald Bogle said that Intruder in the Dust broke new ground in the cinematic portrayal of blacks, and Hernandez's "performance and extraordinary presence still rank above that of almost any other black actor to appear in an American movie."—Wikipedia

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#1 - Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark
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#3 - Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane
#4 - Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper
#5 - Stackin' Paper 2 Genesis' Payback by Joy King
#6 - Thug Lovin' (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark
#7 - When I Get Where I'm Going by Cheryl Robinson
#8 - Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby
#9 - The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 - Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 - Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 - Don't Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 - For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 - For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 - Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 - The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 - Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 - Purple Panties: An Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 - Stackin' Paper by Joy King

#20 - Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 - The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 - Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 - Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 - I Dreamt I Was in Heaven - The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter


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#6 - Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey
#7 - The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight
#8 - The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing
#9 - The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 - John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 - Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 -The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 - The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 - The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 - Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can't Commit  by RM Johnson

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#18 - A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

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#22 - 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino
#23 - Chicken Soup for the Prisoner's Soul by Tom Lagana
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The New Jim Crow

Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

By Michele Alexander

Contrary to the rosy picture of race embodied in Barack Obama's political success and Oprah Winfrey's financial success, legal scholar Alexander argues vigorously and persuasively that [w]e have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it. Jim Crow and legal racial segregation has been replaced by mass incarceration as a system of social control (More African Americans are under correctional control today... than were enslaved in 1850). Alexander reviews American racial history from the colonies to the Clinton administration, delineating its transformation into the war on drugs. She offers an acute analysis of the effect of this mass incarceration upon former inmates who will be discriminated against, legally, for the rest of their lives, denied employment, housing, education, and public benefits. Most provocatively, she reveals how both the move toward colorblindness and affirmative action may blur our vision of injustice: most Americans know and don't know the truth about mass incarceration—but her carefully researched, deeply engaging, and thoroughly readable book should change that.—Publishers Weekly

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Salvage the Bones

A Novel by Jesmyn Ward

On one level, Salvage the Bones is a simple story about a poor black family that’s about to be trashed by one of the most deadly hurricanes in U.S. history. What makes the novel so powerful, though, is the way Ward winds private passions with that menace gathering force out in the Gulf of Mexico. Without a hint of pretension, in the simple lives of these poor people living among chickens and abandoned cars, she evokes the tenacious love and desperation of classical tragedy. The force that pushes back against Katrina’s inexorable winds is the voice of Ward’s narrator, a 14-year-old girl named Esch, the only daughter among four siblings. Precocious, passionate and sensitive, she speaks almost entirely in phrases soaked in her family’s raw land. Everything here is gritty, loamy and alive, as though the very soil were animated. Her brother’s “blood smells like wet hot earth after summer rain. . . . His scalp looks like fresh turned dirt.” Her father’s hands “are like gravel,” while her own hand “slides through his grip like a wet fish,” and a handsome boy’s “muscles jabbered like chickens.” Admittedly, Ward can push so hard on this simile-obsessed style that her paragraphs risk sounding like a compost heap, but this isn’t usually just metaphor for metaphor’s sake. She conveys something fundamental about Esch’s fluid state of mind: her figurative sense of the world in which all things correspond and connect. She and her brothers live in a ramshackle house steeped in grief since their mother died giving birth to her last child. . . . What remains, what’s salvaged, is something indomitable in these tough siblings, the strength of their love, the permanence of their devotion.—WashingtonPost

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

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posted 27 January 2012




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